Faith can be a fickle thing. In the lives of many people, myself included, it can come in waves. Some days we feel really connected and firm in our faith, while at other times, it can be hard to hold on to our beliefs. Like any other thing, the key is practice.
When most people think of spiritual practices they imagine some sort of routine or discipline. For people of many faiths this can also look like prayer, meditation, fasting, or even a life as a nun or monk on the more extreme end. Routine can bring order to people’s lives and there is real value in that. For others such as myself, routine isn’t always the best way to remain deeply connected in our faith. What keeps me grounded is my commitment to God’s people; and to be clear that means all people.
I fully support doing whatever makes your faith feel lived in and whole no matter what form that takes. The closest I ever get to a routine is remembering to do my morning and evening prayers as well as always remembering to give thanks for any meals I consume. Those are important things to do but they aren’t exactly invigorating. What makes me feel most alive is caring for my neighbors as Jesus has called me to do and in today’s world this can look so many different ways.
Feeling like a Christian
When I was a college student, I had fallen far away from any sense of faith. Through coincidence or divine intervention, I ended up at my university’s Wesley Foundation, a United Methodist campus ministry. It was with this group that I began to find my way again. In my early days with this campus ministry I signed up for some spring break service days. It was during these spring break service projects that I began to rebuild my faith, unbeknownst to me. It was so simple and so profound, simultaneously.
This spring break experience was the first time I felt like I was ‘being’ a Christian. We stocked shelves, served food, cooked, and cleaned at a shelter for the unhoused. We did some landscaping at a local park. We did yard work, scraped gunk off floors, and shared a meal at a battered women’s shelter. The service projects we engaged in were quite simple but they taught me something about myself that I had not realized up to that point: doing good in the world and helping others made me feel alive. All of a sudden God was not abstract. I was doing the work of God with my hands and feet.
I never anticipated the fullness I would feel from something so simple as caring for a garden, cleaning, serving, and landscaping. I walked into that campus ministry estranged from God, at least on my end, and I walked out of there on my way to seminary. This week of service projects was nothing less than transformational for me. Serving others the way Jesus modeled for us is what makes me feel spiritually alive. It restored my faith when I was close to giving up. It makes me feel passionately faithful because those moments are when I am most in touch with God.
Who is living their faith?
When I think of people who actively live out their faith, I think of the people who make a difference in the world. I often wonder how different the world could be if caring for others was a consistent spiritual practice. Seeing the faces of my neighbors and meeting their needs is a sacred act in a sense. What better way is there for a person of faith to be the hands and feet of Christ?
I am not a ‘holy roller’ by a long shot but I do believe that God calls on us in today's world. I also believe that when we rise to the occasion of living out this call we come closer to the Kingdom of God on Earth. Our rituals and practices help give our lives order and freedom but this doesn’t necessarily equate to structure or rigidity for all people. For some people, care is a ritual in and of itself. It constitutes a continual choice, on a regular basis, to do something about the brokenness in the world instead of accepting a passive fate for the condition of the world.
Intentionally choosing God and God’s work on a daily basis is core to the proliferation of my faith. It brings me order and clarity. It reminds me of my purpose; and in the end, what is that if not a ritual or practice?